|Constantinople - Capital of Byzantium.
Johnathan Harris, Hambledon & London, 2007.
Johnathan Harris' "Constantinople Capital of Byzantium" is an excellent introduction to Byzantine history taken from
the perspective of the history of the city of Constantinople as it would have been in the year 1200. Through most of
the book, Harris focuses on how Byzantines living in late twelfth century Constantinople would have seen their own
history, looking back and how this Byzantine vision compares to a modern historical understanding.
The book is divided into ten thematic chapters. The narrative retells the history of the city from its foundation to the
modern day. Chapter themes include 'The City of Wonders', 'Founding Fathers' focusing especially on the
contributions on the emperors Constantine I and Justinian I, 'Defence', 'Palaces and Power', 'Churches and
Monasteries', 'Two Thirds of the Wealth of this World' and 'Democracy' or popular Constantinopolitan life. The last
three chapters serve a long epilogue, discussing the Fourth Crusade and crusader rule of the city, late Byzantine
history and the Ottoman conquest in 1453, and finally a delightful survey of the traces of Byzantine Constantinople
that can be found in contemporary Istanbul.
This book is a enjoyable read and would be of interest both to people well familiar with Byzantine history and as well
as those wanting an a readable introduction to this very rich topic. I gave this book four stars as Harris often adds
cynical comments which detract from the narrative and focuses too much on the stories of scandal and intrigue that
are part of Byzantine history. Nevertheless, a well-researched book and a good read.